*IBB, Atiku, Gusau exonerate selves from blame
*Jonathan looks beyond poll
By EMMANUEL AZIKEN & DAPO AKINREFON
LAGOS – PRESIDENT Goodluck Jonathan and his two major contenders in tomorrow’s presidential election were, yesterday, trying to outsmart one another in the race for the Presidency.
While President Jonathan, the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, was tying loose ends and ensuring full turnout of already mobilized supporters, his two rivals were plotting strategies to deny the President a first round victory in the presidential election.
Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, and the Congress for Progressive Change, CPC, which split on the issue of an alliance, Wednesday morning; were on election eve managing the damages arising from the acrimonious divorce.
The CPC candidate, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, in defence of his stance on the alliance described rumours that he sabotaged the alliance as “baseless and unfounded.”
Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, the ACN presidential candidate again confessed that he made the offer to step down for Buhari, even as he urged Nigerians not to sell their consciences tomorrow.
IBB, Atiku, Gusau absolve selves
Meanwhile, former Military President Ibrahim Babangida, former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar and erstwhile National Security Adviser, Gen. Aliyu Gusau, who brokered the failed talks have absolved themselves from blame saying they were only invited to mediate the talks.
The ACN was, nevertheless, holding up the prospect of a future alliance between it and the CPC in the event of a run-off.
President Jonathan who was described yesterday by associates as “not saddened” by the collapse of the talks between the ACN and the CPC was, on his part not leaving anything to chance as associates sought to build up a national consensus around his candidacy. His campaign office in the same vein taunted the aborted alliance by the CPC and ACN as an unholy alliance and last minute machination that was bound to lead to further failures.
It added: “We are not taking anything for granted though we know our position and that is why we are urging our supporters everywhere not to take victory for granted until it is fully accomplished.”
Asked how the campaign was taking the collapse of the alliance between the CPC and the ACN, a close associate of the President told Vanguard: “It cannot be said that we are bouncing, but yes we are not saddened by this development.”
Meanwhile, Jonathan’s Presidential Campaign Council, PCC, yesterday, taunted the aborted move to form an alliance between the CPC and the ACN saying Jonathan would re-enact the victory scored by the party in last Saturday’s National Assembly elections.
Mallam Abba Dabo, Director of Media of the PCC said in a statement: “The results of the National Assembly Election so far released by INEC, has thrown the opposition political parties in a state of considerable disarray.
“We note that some of the parties have been scurrying around trying to form unholy alliances and coalitions against the PDP. We believe that this last minute machination to gang up against our party as a result of their failure at the polls will only lead to further failures on their part.
Electing winning party
“The PDP Presidential Campaign Council, PCC, therefore, calls on all its supporters and all men and women of goodwill to march with confidence on Saturday to elect the winning party, the PDP and its presidential candidate Dr. Goodluck Jonathan.
“We urge Nigerians to continue to put their faith in the PDP because it is the only political party that has the acceptability and standing to provide an all inclusive leadership capable of heralding the country into greatness at home and abroad.
“We also call on Nigerians to ignore all forms of distractions and spurious allegations emanating from these opposition parties by voting our leader Dr. Goodluck Jonathan as president, for the transformation of our country.
“President Goodluck Jonathan has shown, through his words, actions and the testimonies from home and abroad, that he is the man with the perception, vision and plan to transform Nigeria and take us to the Promised Land. Let’s keep faith with President Goodluck Jonathan; he will never let us down.”
The ACN meanwhile, has declared that the botched alliance between it and the CPC will not affect the party’s chances in tomorrow’s election.
In a telephone chat with Vanguard, National Publicity Secretary of the ACN, Alhaji Lai Mohammed said: “Each party will go and test its popularity at the polls on Saturday. If there is no clear winner after the elections, then there might be talks.”
His optimism for a presidential run-off came as Buhari, yesterday, exonerated himself and the CPC from blame over the failure to agree on an alliance against the PDP.
Buhari faulted the insistence of the ACN on producing the Vice-President at a time well past the time for substitution of candidates for the failed alliance.
Meantime, Buhari has described the allegation making the rounds that he was responsible for the inability of his party and the ACN to forge an alliance ahead of Saturday polls as “baseless and unfounded.”
Explaining how the talks failed, Buhari in a statement issued through his spokesman, Yinka Odumakin, said he embraced the renewed talks between the two parties in the best interest of millions of Nigerians yearning for change with great enthusiasm.
He said: “The talks, however, ran into difficulties when the ACN insisted the only conditions for agreement was that they must produce the vice president. By the electoral laws, this was virtually impossible before this election. We suggested that they should let us jointly go into the elections and jointly form the government after our victory. But our friends were not ready to take us on our honour and went to the media.”
While regretting the inability to get the parties to agree to harness their electoral fortunes before Saturday, General Buhari said the task at hand is to get rid of the PDP at the polls through voters mass turnout and eternal vigilance from accreditation to the final announcement of results.
Meanwhile associates of the three northern leaders who brokered the talks have disclaimed a hidden agenda on the part of the troika of Babangida, Atiku and Gusau in convening the talks.
Responding to the negative backlash on the involvement of the three PDP stalwarts in mobilizing support against their own candidate, an associate said:
According to the top Northern politician, Babangida, Atiku and Gusau were approached by the CPC and ACN leaders to negotiate the alliance deal.
The source affirmed that since they were neither members of the ACN nor CPC they could not be blamed for the failure of the talks which the source claimed they were only invited to help midwife.